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Here’s an idea: Let’s tax the rain!

Am I safe in saying there are no boat dealers that believe taxes won’t go up in the months ahead?

It seems certain new taxes will come at us from all levels — federal, state and local. Why, it brings to mind that old joke punch line: “If it moves, tax it!”  So, when a new tax scheme comes to our attention, we shouldn’t be surprised. right? Not necessarily.

How about one that’s tantamount to taxing the rain. No, that’s not a typo . . . I mean rain! In essence, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has started putting limits on storm water pollution. This, in turn, will force local governments to spend large amounts of money they don’t have. For the first time, the EPA is placing specific limits on how much storm water pollution is allowed to flow into the nation’s streams, rivers, lakes and bays.

Interestingly, for us in boating, this is a textbook approach-avoidance situation. We approach clean water with enthusiasm. After all, it’s good for our business. But it’s all avoidance when we talk about higher taxes, especially when economic recovery is still more of a hope than a reality for our industry.

In a recent article in USA Today entitled “Cities slap fees on storm runoff,” by Dennis Cauchon, he reported new environmental regulations from EPA are prompting cities to impose fees on property owners for the cost of managing storm water runoff. It’s considered the leading cause of water pollution in most of the nation. Storm water from roofs, roads, parking lots and farms, for example, carries oil, sediments, manure, chemicals and more. It’s claimed that areas like those labeled “dead zones” in Lake Erie or the Gulf of Mexico are the direct results of storm water.

Traditionally, most local governments have paid for storm water programs from general tax revenue. But, with the budget gaps brought on by this great recession, cities and counties are thinking storm water fees on all properties based on how much rainwater flows off a property. Where fees now have been implemented, they’re typically ranging from $2 to $10 a month for an average home based on how much area is involved with roof, driveway and other surfaces. But, fees go up into the thousands of dollars a month for large retail stores, malls, factories, schools, airports, you name it.

These fees are gaining increased notice and opposition. For example, in Seminole County, Fla., some 500 people stormed a county commissioners’ meeting demanding they vote to reject a fee. They did. Over in Colorado Springs, voters repealed a storm water fee. In the Cleveland area, the regional sewer district is being sued by business groups for trying to impose a monthly fee, while Maryland is reportedly considering requiring cities and counties to charge storm water fees.

Certainly none of us in the boating industry would say clean water isn’t important. And, perhaps, storm water fees may ultimately be determined the best way to finance water improvement. However, there are three legs to this stool – costs, benefits and timing. Specifically to the latter, there clearly couldn’t be a worse time to be adding thousands of dollars in storm water fees (taxes) to our industry’s dealerships, marinas and manufacturing facilities. Wherever such fees are being proposed, dealers must pause to determine what level to become engaged in the issue.?


2 comments on “Here’s an idea: Let’s tax the rain!

  1. Byrd Gossett

    If you OWN something of value…that makes you rich in the eyes of our present administration, and many local gvts as well… If you OWN something that some how affects, no matter how infinitestimal, any peripheral context, like expanding concentric ripples…why, just go ahead and tax ..or penalize,, or fine, each ripple…

  2. Doug Reimel

    Let me tell you a story that is true and happend in the early nineties. It is about 2 marinas on the lake. They both have buildings that the seagulls do their buisness on the roofs and hang out. When it rains the water on marina #1 roof washes the fecal matter off the roof, into the gutter down the down spout, accross the parking lot and into the lake. The marina #2 rain washes the same type of byrd fecal matter off the roof, into the gutters, down the down spout, into a underground tube underneath the parking lot and into the lake. Note the difference is across the parking lot verses underneath the parking lot. Both marinas were subject to and EPA investigation for fecal matter pollution that they could not control because the seagulls are a protected species by the federal government. After a lengthy investigation and lots of dollars marina #1 was guilty and marina #2 was not. Confused yet? The water running accrossed the parkijg lot picked up oils and other debris causing additional pollution from the marinas customers that parked their cars on the parking lot. Just to be fair this was all done to find out what levels of pollution were being put into the lakes that we love and enjoy. Common sense or No Common sense you decide.

    P.S. did you dispose of your used kitty litter in an eco friendly way?

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